More a Mondeo sort of family
The owner of Dingolfing’s main hotel doesn’t look very pleased to see us. It’s Saturday night and she’s been dragged out onto the main street. She points to a sign in the window that says ‘Ruhetag’ which we soon find out means Day of Rest. But one of her long term residents has asked her to take pity on us and give us a bed for the night. Pity is not the emotion I suspect she is feeling.
“One room 90 euro’s, the other room 75 euro’s. You have to have both,” she says through our translating friend. We don’t want both, as we’re used to squashing into one family room, and 165 euro’s is our entire budget for the weekend. We politely decline her offer and turn our bikes around. “There are other hotels in this town,” says the resident, a middle aged chap who introduces himself as Ekhart. “I will help you find a room.” There doesn’t seem to be much else to do in Dingolfing on a Saturday night.
But there is no room at any of the inns in Dingolfing. Not for less than 170 euro’s. The owner of another hotel explains that we are unlikely to get one elsewhere in town for less than 280 euro. “Business people will pay that,” he shrugs as Ekhart translates. Business people? The place is a ghost town and there’s no one in a suit and tie for miles around.
Dingolfing – a BMV town
As we walk on I cross examine Ekhart about why accommodation is so expensive here. “In three letters; BMV.” I try to work our what BMV stands for. He goes on, “Dingolfing makes cars. Here you have the largest BMV plant in the world.” I look at him blankly. “Are they famous?” I ask, wondering how such a small town could possibly have something so important. He points to a BMW on the square. And then another. And another. And I feel slightly stupid. “BMV brings boom to this town economy. Every year quarter of million 5,6 and 7 series car leave here.” And the number of staff needed to do this means that hoteliers can apparently charge what they like. Even on a Saturday night when their hotel is closed.
Back at the first hotel again, the owner still doesn’t look very pleased to see us. In fact she looks even less pleased than the last time we wheeled our bikes up to her locked gates. But she smells the money and surprisingly it’s still 165 euro. She hands over two keys with some curt instructions in German. “If you go out through those gates tonight you must take key with you, otherwise you will find yourself sleeping on street all night,” Ekhart translates her staccato commands as we all follow her up eerie unlit corridors in the main body of the hotel. We pass the ‘buro,’ – an abandoned check in desk that looks like some kind of former border control post. We whisper in the silence, adjusting our eyes to the semi darkness. We are given some towels and left alone.
A knock on the door
Almost alone. An hour later there is a slight knock on the door, and our new friend Ekhart pushes three chocolate bars through the gap. “For the children,” he explains, saying goodnight. “Where did he get those?” I ask Stuart. “Every shop we past was locked and bolted shut for the night.” BMV executives clearly retreat to their home towns on Saturdays. All except kind Ekhart, whose home and family are in Hanover; more than six hundred kilometres away.
We have a great night’s sleep. It’s so quiet. There are dozens of rooms spread across several corridors and courtyards, and none of them are occupied. But in the morning it’s time to face our host. She brings us coffee and lays out fresh eggs, and is relatively courteous, until we have finished our breakfast.
“Money,” she says to Stuart in German as he stands up to leave. He explains that his wallet is in the room and he will go and get it. “Money,” she prods him in the shoulder. I stay at the table and open my laptop to check e mails. “NEIN,” she shouts and gestures to the door. I am being thrown out of a breakfast buffet! At least there is no one else there to witness the humiliation. “Money, now.” she says, pursing her fingers at me like Shylock.
On the way back to the room I reflect on German efficiency. When it is working for you, it is fantastic. We can get tandems on trains. Ekhart can get chocolate for three in a ghost town or get us a room in a hotel that is closed. But when it’s working against you, it’s terrifying. I pick up the money from Stuart and rush back down to pay a bill we can’t afford, for an extra hotel room we didn’t need, in a town we don’t belong in, owned by a woman who doesn’t like us. Perhaps it’s the BMV thing; we’re a second hand Ford Mondeo family.